Unfortunately the gift of pregnancy can sometimes be accompanied by a few unwanted side effects, such as stretch marks! Stretch marks are purple-red streaks that appear in overstretched skin.
Most women get them, perhaps during puberty and/or pregnancy, when the skin is rapidly accommodating some fast growth of our bodies. Even men can get them, when the skin is stretched beyond its elastic limit, usually due to weight gain.
The primary cause is stretching of the skin due to underlying tissue expansion. Parallel inflammatory streaks appear and align perpendicular to the direction of skin tension. Microscopically, the skin is initially swollen, inflamed and elastin bundles in the inner layer of skin are disrupted.
Over time, the inflammation eventually fades and is replaced by scar tissue. This produces a thinned outer layer of skin, loss of dermal elastin, and a replacement of the dermis by abnormally dense collagen fibres.
During pregnancy, hormonal and genetic factors influence the likelihood of developing stretch marks. If you develop stretch marks during puberty you are likely to develop them also during pregnancy. Younger women, women who gain more weight during pregnancy, women with twins or large babies and women who go post-term are all more likely to get stretch marks.
Unfortunately stretch marks are not preventable if you are prone to developing them. Don’t waste money on creams and potions claiming they will prevent them, as nothing has been proven to do so. Creams can perhaps fade them, and they do also fade naturally with time anyway.
On study showed a cream containing Centellaasiatica extract, alpha tocopherol (vitamin E), and collagen-elastin hydrolysates seemed to prevent development of striae in women prone to this problem.
Unfortunately cocoa butter was not effective in preventing stretch marks.
In pregnant women, treatment of stretch marks is usually deferred until after the birth of your child because of concerns regarding the effects of various therapies on your baby.
After birth you can also seek professional help by way of laser or Intense Pulse Light therapy (IPL) but if they remain, wear them as badges of honour and embrace them as a reminder of the amazing life you have brought into the world. They are nothing to be ashamed of, and just remember over 50% of us have them.